““In Mercabarna we are well-organised, every day we know what we will pack”
“Large-scale distribution imposes standards which, at times, Spanish production can’t fulfil”
Miquel García, Manager of Patatas Zamorano
In his offices in ZAC Mercabarna, Miquel García explains how they see the potato sector in Barcelona. “In the past, France was the pioneer, the one that always set the pace. Now I believe that here from Mercabarna we are doing it, or if not quite, we’re very close”.
Mercabarna is the only European market which has seven major companies packing potato within the market itself, twelve hours a day. This peculiarity explains the innovative spirit of Catalonian potato specialists. The proximity between them creates a very high degree of competition which makes for a daily contest to excel and go even further in terms of certification, equipment, waste water treatment, etc. “The advantage: we are among the first in everything. When potatoes are scarce, finding them and bringing them from third countries does not daunt us at all. Nowadays there is equipment which is tested in Barcelona rather than France and the same kind of thing is happening with all other innovations in the sector”.
The tough competition existing between the seven Mercabarna packaging companies means that this market has become a target for any innovation. All the warehouses have control laboratories and quality seals, products must undergo traceability checks and there are manuals certified by external companies. The companies have production lines to wash and weigh and packaging machines, always equipped with the latest technology. In this competitive environment Mercabarna moves between three and five million kilos of potato each week and added to this are shipments sent to other warehouses in Spain when the French season begins.
The Manager of Patatas el Zamorano comments that “outside Catalonia we are regarded as a little unpatriotic because we will get potatoes from anywhere. The problem with central Spain is that, naturally, producers would like their products to be consumed nation-wide. However, we have quality criteria agreed with large-scale distribution which need to be consistently met. If cultivation doesn’t move at the same pace that is being demanded of us, then there is a conflict: the varieties are neither appropriate nor grown in the way we require. We cannot put a quality seal on a bag without having a guarantee behind this and we are very strict on this point. Following these criteria, the number of growers we can use in Spain is noticeably reduced. The moment comes when you have to go elsewhere to find the product and, strange though it may seem, crops from Egypt, Israel or Morocco do fulfil these cultivation criteria”.
85% of products packaged by Patatas el Zamorano remain on the mainland and go to large-scale distribution. Miquel García confirms that the big problem with export is still appropriation, in other words that when the goods arrive at their destination the price is not fixed. “This is a weakness in Spanish business practice that could cost us production. When you buy in France, Israel, England etc. a contract detailing the product characteristics and its price is signed before the merchandise is loaded. Many exports originating from our territory are loaded without even knowing the destination, price, quantity or purchaser. This will have to change”.